A Perfectly Rational Dog

One of many interesting things in the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, amidst much other technical insight, is this reference to a ‘a perfectly rational dog.’ “The fundamental phenomenon here was originally observed by the fourteenth-century French philosopher Jean Buridan in his commentary on Aristotle’s De caelo. Buridan argued that a perfectly rational dog placed between two equally attractive sources of food will starve to death, because it is incapable of deciding which to go to first.” -SICP

Actually, later research shows this to be species swap of Buridan’s Ass, where the ass was a parody of Buriden’s writing on the De Caelo, where the example was a man torn between hunger and thirst. At least, if you believe Wikipedia.

Somehow I like the dog variation better however; perhaps Ableman ans Sussman (authors of SICP) did as well. It may simple be that dogs are more common than donkeys in the modern world.

However, I have so far managed to not mention why I’m mentioning this. You see, I am like a perfectly rational dog. Not that food is a specific problem, but I had already begun to suspect that somehow I enjoy the agony of indecision, for why else would I do it so much? At least Buriden seems to be with me here. His position (for which he drew the ass analogy) was that it was perfectly legitimate to withhold judgment until the situation becomes clearer.

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